DIYORNOT Celebrates 25 Years in Print

Gene and Katie Hamilton

March 2012 is an important date for us because it marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of our newspaper column Do It Yourself Or Not. Twenty-five years ago we were living and working on our 14th “fixer-upper” and writing about the projects for  articles The Family Handyman and Popular Mechanics magazines. We went to a syndication seminar in New York City with thoughts of writing a newspaper column about the projects we were working on. Half of the participants were artists with ideas for cartoons, the rest of us were writers. The most insightful idea gleaned was from one of the panel members, all editors at major syndicators like Tribune, King Features and Los Angeles Times. He said to create a feature that a newspaper staff member could not, suggesting that a saleable feature was niche information a reporter didn’t have the time or expertise to research and create on a weekly basis. Our aha moment came on the return drive home when we realized the cost of an improvement job was something we knew a lot about, but never saw it written about. So we focused a weekly feature on individual job costs that compared doing it yourself with hiring a contractor. Today the print version is syndicated by Tribune Media to newspapers but the online editions and have a much larger audience in the online world. We marvel at the fact that in 1987 when we began writing the column there were 75 Home Depot stores in the U.S. and today there are 1,974 and many more worldwide. Who knew we’d be able to ride the do-it-yourself craze all these years? Not us.